More Useful to This World: Dads in Sri Lanka Find New Life
Old habits do not die hard for Surendralingam, of Maskeliya, Sri Lanka.
Even after he got married and had children, he spent his evenings drinking and playing cricket with friends. He struggled with other addictions, too, neglecting his family and sometimes hitting his daughter in anger.
“This is the way men live in our community,” he says.
But Surendralingam is a different man these days.
He learned to be a better father and husband after attending workshops in his community, teaching about the father’s role in the home.
Through “The Father Program,” World Vision and Promundo, a Brazil-based humanitarian organization, help men develop healthy family relationships and become leaders in their community. It’s part of a worldwide effort to engage men to become better fathers and caregivers.
Surendralingam and his peers reflected on how men and women spend their time, learned about how healthy sexuality positively affects marriage, and reflected on how their parents affected their parenting habits. Throughout the program, Surendralingam and his wife worked through specific communication issues, developed a budget, and discovered ways they could unite to more consistently raise their children. He also learned how to network and mobilize other men to pass these lessons throughout the community.
Six months since the program began, men who participated in the workshops consume less alcohol than they used to and are more receptive to sharing household responsibilities with their spouses. Domestic violence cases are decreasing as well.
“Not only does he help me with household work, but he also takes care of both me and my daughter,” says Surendralingam’s wife. “Earlier my husband used to hit our daughter, but now even if I scold her, he advises me to speak softly to her so that she understands better.”
Surendralingam humbled himself so he could better serve his family. His wife is teaching him to read and write. He now saves money formerly spent on destructive habits for his daughter’s education. Through lessons learned in his fathers’ group, Surendralingam is even helping his brother recover from alcoholism.
“The lessons… have now liberated me totally from these [habits], and I spend all the evenings with my child and wife,” he says.
Following the model from Sri Lanka, World Vision is helping implement similar initiatives in India, South Africa, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, and Zambia.
“I now understand that knowledge matters and… that learning is a lifelong process,” Surendralingam says.
This change of heart has driven him to expand his original business, a CD shop, into a bookstore, to better support his family.
Ultimately, he hopes to be an example for others in the community and be a force for change.
“Most of all, now I feel I am a useful man to my wife and my child and my community,” he says. “The joy that we experience today is immense, and I want to learn more and become more useful to this world. I became an active member to lead the transformation of our community, especially among men.”
Written by Jonathan Rainey. Additional Contributor: Chris Huber
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